The Rolling Stones

Midnight Rambler

Composed by Mick Jagger / Keith Richards

Song Review by

"Midnight Rambler" is one of the most notorious Rolling Stones tracks, as well as being one of their most popular songs never to make it onto a single. The notoriety stems from the inspiration for the song: Albert De Salvo, the Boston Strangler. Mick Jagger even went to the extent of using part of De Salvo's confession for the rape and murder of 23-year-old Beverly Samans for part of the lyric. As with some other Rolling Stones lyrics that many might find objectionable ("Brown Sugar," for example), the sinister implications are easy to miss, the first several times the song's heard anyway, because the music itself is so compelling and powerful. "Midnight Rambler" is one of the group's best blues-rock compositions, neither pure electric blues nor pure rock & roll, chugging along like a determined train, with some of their finest combination rhythm-lead guitar riffs. Jagger, too, unleashes some of his best harmonica work during the song, as well as some of his most salacious vocalizing. The track's drama increases exponentially when the tempo suddenly slows to a striptease-like grind in the middle, letting Jagger drawl out words for emphasis as the band comes to a virtual halt behind him, interjecting drum thumps and laconic bluesy guitar riffs almost as demonic answers to his lyrics. The song then slowly accelerates back to its brisk midtempo rhythm for the final section. Although "Midnight Rambler" was first released as a studio track on Let It Bleed, it's the slightly subsequent late-1969 live recording on Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! that's become the far more popular version, particularly after it was included in the double-album greatest-hits collection Hot Rocks 1964-1971. The live version is substantially better -- it's tougher and more uninhibited (particularly in the slowed-down section), lasting a good eight and a half minutes. The main difference in the arrangements is the greater use of slide guitar in the studio original, which is more than compensated for by the tenser live drama of the Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! cut.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Let It Bleed 1969 ABKCO Records 6:52
Sticky Fingers 1971 Virgin 0:00
Hot Rocks: 1964-1971 1972 ABKCO Records / Universal Music 9:15
No Image 1972 Swingin' Pig
Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1975 Universal Distribution
Stones Story 1976 Decca
No Image 1977 Blank Records
Hot Rocks 2 [Disc 2] 1985 Decca / london 9:11
No Image 1985 Import
No Image 1995 Totonka
No Image 1996 Midnight Beat 13:34
12 X 5/Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! 1999 CD Maximum
Remastered Series 2004 ABKCO Records 9:04
The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 [Vinyl Box Set] 2010 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 6:52
GRRR! 2012 ABKCO Records 0:00
The Rolling Stones in Mono 2016 ABKCO Records 6:53